The Sixers were able to secure a victory in game one of the first-round matchup with the Wizards, but it was far from their game plan. Three questionable foul calls on Joel Embiid limited him to just 11 first-half minutes. Given that the Sixers offense flows through their 7-foot MVP candidate, this changed things drastically. Thankfully the search for offensive firepower did not take long as Tobias Harris stepped right into the role of the primary scorer. After doing so, he never looked back.
The Tennessee product had arguably his most impressive season as a professional as he averaged 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He has been rejuvenated by the reunion with Doc Rivers as his coach and had the most efficient season of his career shooting 51.2% from the field, 39.4% from three, and 89.2% from the free-throw line.
Harris has drawn criticism for his performance in the playoffs in previous years, but this was far from the case in the Wizards matchup. Harris started hot and scored 12 first-quarter points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field. With Embiid picking up a third foul with 7:07 left in the second quarter, he was forced to take a seat for the remainder of the half.
While Embiid was forced to sit on the sideline, Tobias Harris went on a tear and scored 16 straight points for the Sixers in the second quarter. In total, he ended with 28 first-half points on an impressive 12-19 shooting from the field and kept the Sixers within one point at the half. This is extremely impressive considering the next highest scorer at the half was still Joel Embiid with 9 points.
As Danny Green put it in the postgame media availability, Tobias “kept us afloat while Joel was in foul trouble.” When the second half rolled around, Embiid was able to play smart and work his way back into the flow of the game. This time on the bench kept him fresh, and Embiid came in to close out the game- tallying 30 points in 30 minutes of play.
The efforts from Tobias Harris did not go unnoticed by his teammates as this was a major conversation piece following the game. As Joel Embiid put it, “Him keeping us in the game while I was on the bench is huge.” Ben Simmons echoed this message and spoke glowingly of Harris’ talent as a whole. As Ben put it, “He’s so talented and gifted and he continues to get better and better.” Simmons also agreed with the comment from the reporter that said the trio of Embiid, Harris, and Simmons have formed their own “Big-3.”
Doc Rivers also reflected on Tobias Harris’ performance and just how important he has been to the Sixers. Rivers joked about how their whole plan had to be scrapped due to Embiid’s foul trouble and gave credit to Harris for allowing the team to be able to adjust on the fly. This also led to a discussion regarding Rivers and Harris’ time with the Clippers and how that gave him confidence in Tobias when taking over this job. As Doc put it, “I just really believed it would take over at some point and it has.”
The Sixers still have a tall task ahead of them in the playoffs with just one game in the books so far. While Joel Embiid rightfully will dominate the scouting reports and instill fear in opposing teams, Tobias Harris deserves a ton of credit for his growth in production this season. This variety of scoring options is part of what has made this Sixers team so great and continues the high hopes for their postseason run.
While he may not be always given the same credit of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris is every bit as important to this Sixers team. The quiet production on a nightly basis from Tobias has been a major factor in increasing this Sixers team’s ceiling and it is encouraging to see this continue into the postseason. He may lack the flash or headlines, but the production in Tobias’ game is crucial for the Sixers’ success.
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